The CDL has recently completed a multi-faceted assessment of the Online Archive of California (OAC) and Calisphere, in order to plan for the continued development of these platforms–especially as relates to hosting and providing access to digitized special collections materials. The assessment comprised three projects:
- “Pop-up” user survey: a multiple choice question placed on the OAC and Calisphere for one week asking users to describe themselves.
- Usage statistics analysis: collection and analysis of four months of web analytics data, cross-analyzed with pop-up survey data where relevant.
- Contributor interviews: in-person and phone interviews with contributors from ten UC campuses and two non-UC institutions, focused on their motivations for and needs with respect to contributing digital objects.
The assessment uncovered immensely valuable information about the OAC and Calisphere platforms. Key findings included the following:
- Calisphere had a much broader user base for the survey period than its defined audience of K-12 teachers. College and graduate students, in particular, comprised the largest user group in this survey period.
- Many users of Calisphere arrive at digital objects from the open web and may not explore the site further. This trend suggests that more could be done to connect objects to other relevant content.
- Contributors to the OAC and Calisphere cite many benefits for doing so. However, there are some barriers, namely a lack of steady digitization funding, an ingest system that is “downstream” from current workflows, and lack of a user-facing destination that showcases contributors’ unique collections.
- There may be additional ways of expanding the contextual information available for digital objects through user tagging, subject access, and curated collections.
These and other findings have pointed the way to many exciting possibilities for supporting access to digital special collections. The CDL is using the information gleaned from the assessment to define future development priorities for the OAC and Calisphere, in concert with the Next Generation Technical Services project to create a systemwide service for and access portal to a UC Libraries Digital Collection.
To read a more extensive discussion of methodologies, findings, and opportunities, download the report.